During the Blue Jays’ homestand last week, relievers Jesse Carlson and Brian Wolfe could be spotted before many games carrying large backpacks on their shoulders as they walked from the dugout to the bullpen.
It was not either man’s choice to do so, but rather a part of team tradition that ensures relievers with the least big league experience transport the bag, which is filled with an assortment of treats that help the bullpen corps pass time.
After all, unlike most players, the job of a reliever is distinct because it requires one to sit on the bench for most of the game. A reliever rarely knows when, if ever, he will be called upon to pitch and that can cause just a little bit of monotony, especially in the early innings of a game.
“That’s why we got that candy bag down there,” Carlson said. “Everybody kind of chews their seeds and eats the gum and drinks as many Red Bulls as they can during the early innings. Then, once the fifth or sixth inning rolls around, that’s where we kind of lock it in.”
When a starter like Toronto ace Roy Halladay, who routinely pitches deep into games, is on the hill though, the relief corps knows its services would probably not be needed. That’s when Carlson says the group will start discussions about a variety of subjects, trash-talk included.
“We mostly try to stay focused on the game,” said the sophomore left-hander. “But for some reason, if we know we’re not going to be in there, we’ll start opening up to conversation more and just kind of talk about anything that anybody brings up to keep it loose down there.”
So who’s the biggest talker in the bullpen? Carlson claims that distinction falls to right-hander Shawn Camp.
“That guy never shuts up,” said Carlson laughing. “We’ve got our bench up there in the pen and that’s where I sit. He sits down below and it’s a good thing, because he talks way too much.
“He’ll make your ears bleed. It’s brutal.”